This Just In….
There has been an alleged sighting of a Bob Stoops looking fellow on the campus of USC. The man, riding a beach cruiser, was wearing sunglasses, a backpack, and grey Chuck Taylors. Witnesses said that they saw the man with a wedding ring on walk into a classroom at USC and sat down in a nondescript seat without saying a word.
No student asked him if he was supposed to be in the classroom with allegedly caught the man off-guard. Reports said that the man had come prepared with comments in case he was asked about his legitimacy. They included, “I’m a Narc”, “No I am making sure my kid comes to class”, and the real answer, “I’m finishing up my degree.”
The “Bob Stoops” look-alike was actually me and I am finishing what I had started 13 years ago. When I left USC I had a total of 22 units remaining on a Finance degree. I took 2 correspondence classes in 2003 and 2004 respectively while playing in Houston. So that left me 14 to go.
The short story is that new Head Coach, Frank Cruz, had interviewed me for an assistant coaching position on the team. He said that I could take classes while I coached. It isn’t a paid position, as I am still pursuing broadcasting or a paid coaching job.
So that is what happened. All of a sudden, I was enrolled in classes and about to return to college 4 days after my 35th birthday.
For those of you who don’t know me, I am a guy that jokes around a lot. But when it comes to coaching, I am very serious. As I think about it, I have been coached by some of the best in the game.
Tim Ammentorp (Redondo Union HS Baseball Coach) taught me about character and integrity. He also showed me that different players have to be coached and handled in different ways. He has been the biggest influence in my life after my Dad.
Mike Gillespie (My coach at USC and now UCI) has one of the highest baseball IQ’s in the game. He taught me the details of fundamental baseball which are essential to winning. He also taught me how to care for players and still hold them accountable.
Manny Acta (Manager Cleveland Indians) was my manager in Single A. He was the person who taught me how to use my hands when fielding a ball. He also taught me baseball strategy at the professional level. His baseball IQ is through the roof.
Jackie Moore (Bench Coach Texas Rangers) was my Double A manager. He taught me how to care for players. I have never been around another person in the game who cared for his guys the way Jackie does. He taught me how to respect players, as well as, how to defend them if an umpire gets out of line.
Tony Pena (Bench Coach New York Yankees) was our Triple A manager. He taught me that you can never let up in the game of baseball. He also showed me how to identify what players do well so that you can help them get back on track. Another thing he taught me was how to smile even when the game is crushing your heart.
Jim Hickey (Pitching Coach Tampa Bay Rays) was our Triple A and Big League Pitching Coach in Houston. Jim taught me that coaches have to be consistent with their actions. He is a master at communication and unmatched in identifying pitcher mechanics.
Mike Maddux (Pitching Coach Texas Rangers) was our Double A pitching coach. He and I talked almost everyday about baseball an hour before batting practice. He taught me how to identify holes in batters swings or tendencies of base runners. I also got to watch him mentor Roy Oswalt and teach him the value of strikes and balls in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.
Jimy Williams (Manager Houston Astros) taught me how to throw a baseball with accuracy and carry. He taught me how to teach the fundamentals of throwing which may have been the biggest piece of wisdom I have ever received in ball. Along with those skills, Jimy taught me how to define rolls for position players so that they can anticipate when they are going to be used according to the situation.
Gene Lamont (Third Base Coach Detroit Tigers) was our third base coach in Houston. Gene may have the highest baseball IQ of anyone I have met….Robbie Thompson (Third Base Coach Yankees) may have the only mind that rivals Gene’s. Gene taught me about aggressive base running and understanding the value of each out according to the situation. He also taught me how to force an opponents into making a low percentage decision.
Joe Girardi (Manager New York Yankees) taught me how to give a team a Vision and purpose. I have never run so hard in my life as I did with the Yankees. It was because Joe changed my vision of why we run. He is a big believer in staying away from the Law of Diminishing Returns. The Yankees work harder than any team I have been on or can imagine and Joe taught me how to properly rest players.
I feel fortunate to have had these men coach me. It is now my turn to pass on the wisdom I have learned from coaches who taught me about the game. My only goal is to make sure that these kids that I coach know that I care about them. That they understand that this isn’t about me. It’s about them.
What is my point?
Mat Latos and Joey Votto should be on the All Star team.
Why does it matter?
Latos and Votto are key reasons why their teams are in 1st place in their divisions. It is an injustice that they are not rewarded for playing so well.
Joey Votto 1B
Team: Cincinnati Reds
Place: 1st Place NL Central
On base plus slugging (OPS): 1.017!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Home runs: 21
Photo by: Al Behrman
Team: San Diego Padres
Place: 1st Place NL West
K: 91 BB: 26
Walks plus Hits/Innings pitched (WHIP): 0.96!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Batting average against: 0.193
Photo by: Chris O’Meara
What are we going to do?
Now it is up to you to tell me how we are going to fix this. Let me hear the ideas. Remember, I don’t want to hear a bunch of complaining! The decisions have been made. We are going to try and figure out the best way to fix this problem in the future. By the way, I don’t have a single clue how to rectify this system. I am looking to you for help. So what do you have?
Pssst…Longo….Longoria…Pssst…It’s me man….
What’s your name again?
Dude…it’s Moe. Morgan? Morgan Ensberg?
Oh hey man…listen I have a tax attorney. They do a great job.
Evan…I am not a tax attorney.
Oh…well I have enough insurance. My agent…
Evan…I used to play baseball.
Little League is awesome…hey do you know that Troy Tulowitzki and I played together at Long Beach State?
Yes…I know that. But I used to play in the Big Leagues.
No really. Played for the Astros most of my career. Yup. Got to wear a uniform and everything.
Ok…ok…I’m sure it will come to me. But what’s up?
Well I wanted to talk to you over here in the batting cage.
There is no batting cage. I don’t even exist. This is you talking to the fake Evan in your head. We are in a Starbucks right now.
No…I get it. I know you are the Fake Evan Longoria and I know I am speaking for you and imagining what you might say. Just play along dude.
Whatever. This is a conversation with yourself. That’s weird man.
Ok…Fake Evan just listen for a second and you can go back to whatever you were doing.
Since this is your imagination can you give me the ability to fly?…or how about ride a unicorn….no…I want to ride Pegasus back to the “Trop”.
Yes. You can fly any way you would like…magic carpet if that makes you happy.
Well can we hurry then because I want to tell the guys that I flew on a horse with wings.
Sure. I wanted to pull you aside here without anyone seeing us and talk about the Upton deal.
Listen real Morgan or fake Unicorn…we said that the issue is over.
I know Fake Evan. But I had really good examples of leadership growing up and in the Big Leagues and I want to pass some information to you that will gain the respect of everyone on the team.
Fine…what is it?
You are a leader Evan. I know because I have been in Spring Training with you.
Maybe…I still don’t think we would have brought in a tax collector.
It was tax attorney, but that isn’t my point. My point is that I have seen how your teammates view you in the clubhouse. They respect you because you care.
I do care. I care a lot. That is why I said something to BJ.
I understand. If you could do it all over again would that have been the way you handled this situation?
Listen, I don’t live in a “woulda’, shoulda’, coulda’ world with fake unicorns and insurance agents who talk to themselves. We have to win and I give a crap!”
I know you do. Your team knows you do. But just like people watch a guy when he is struggling, they will watch you when you are talking to people. Or in this case, when you have a difference in opinion. Does that make sense?
Hypothetically, how would you handle that situation?
Kinda’ ironic that you are using “hypothetically” isn’t it? I mean I don’t even exist…you put “fake” in front of my name so “hypothetically” this is you answering your own question. That’s irony.
Fake Evan…I’m trying to write a post for my blog so people understand how delicate the relationships are on a Major League team. Can you just help me out here? If I tell them it won’t pack the same punch as you telling them.
Ok. I guess I could have pulled him aside when no one else was around and talked to him about the play. We could have come into this imaginary world you got going here. Surely nobody with any sort of brains would be there.
Easy Fake Evan…remember who is in charge here.
What are you going to do…send me to Atlantis? How about Gilligan’s Island? No, I know, send me to Krypton! What planet are the Care Bears from?
I don’t know. But let me try and get us back on track. Pulling the player aside without anyone seeing is a great idea. What would you say?
Well…I would say, “Hey, I pulled you aside so that I can understand what you were trying to do on that play the other day. From where I was standing it looked like you weren’t going hard on that ball. I don’t know if you were dogging it or not, but I don’t want the other guys on the team thinking that you don’t care. I know you care and I want you to be great and make a billion dollars in this game. You and I both know that the organization doesn’t need any reason to get rid of us. I want you to know that I am on your side and thought that if I didn’t say anything then you would get labeled as a guy who doesn’t go hard. Is that cool?
I love it! That was great. You see…right there you showed BJ that you care about him. You are not saying this to make yourself feel better or to look like you are running the show. Instead you explained to him how his teammates, the organization, and the media might interpret his effort. Then you explained to him how that could affect his future earnings in the game. You are no longer a guy who just finds faults, but someone who cares about how BJ is viewed. That is leadership. Well-done Fake Evan.
Thanks Morris. I couldn’t have done it without you.
It doesn’t really matter.
As I walk out to the mound they know what I am going to say. We know how to defend this because we drill it non-stop. One might say there is no reason to go out to the mound and talk if that is the case. But my purpose is to calm everyone down and give an encouraging word.
By the time I get out to the mound every infielder is there. Here is what I say:
Alright guys. No problem here. They are going to bunt. Pierre is showing the bunt early, First Baseman, you can’t crash. Slowly start creeping and watch for the slash. Third base you are creeping also, move 2 steps into the 5-6 hole and get in that guys face and remind him that you are there. Second Baseman you will play over a few steps in the hole and be ready to cover 1st base. Shortstop, you have 2nd.
Now listen, Pitcher, after you throw this fastball, I want you busting your butt over to the 1st base line. Third baseman will cover the entire left side and the mound. We don’t want to allow Pierre to push bunt the ball and get a hit.
OK! We got this. We are going to get an out at 1st base. Get your feet underneath you and throw a strike to 1st base. Hey! Just follow your throw.
We will intentionally walk the next batter once we get the out at 1st. Then we get a double play and we’re good!
Listen! We won’t be able to hear anything. So are we all good on what our assignments are? Good.
Hey! Pressure is fun. Winning is fun! We’re having fun you hear me! Let’s go!
What I really just did…
Our entire team knew what we were going to do. My talk wasn’t about that. Sure it is always good to go over everyone’s fielding assignments, but it is more important for the players to understand how the manager feels. Managers have an incredible influence on their players. They have an ability to give a guy confidence when he has none in himself. He has the power to show the players that he cares about them as people. In this situation, the pitcher probably thinks he did something wrong. Part of my purpose to go out there is to show him that I don’t care about that. He didn’t do anything wrong. This will change the way the pitcher feels and refocus him on his assignment instead of concentrating on the fact that he just gave up a hit in the 9th.
As for the other infielders, it is to show them that I have complete confidence in them. Managers usually go out there so “tight” that you can’t believe it. It makes things worse. We can tell when the game is moving too fast for a manager. We want to see a guy who has a plan. It is also nice when the manager shows that they are human. This too is rare. They think being really serious and intense will somehow influence the players to feel confidence. It isn’t true. It will cause players to tense up and realize the pressure. My goal is the opposite. I will look in each one of their eyes so that they can see that I am calm and believe in them.
Before I turn around and run back to the dugout, I give a little half-smile and say:
No problem here….we got this! Let’s do it!
So how did you do? Tell me what you did.
What’s my point?
I tried to sway your opinion in the previous piece called And You Are Trying To Figure Out Why We Don’t Tell You the Truth with the title of this article.
Why does it matter?
Readers who decide to read my posts have to understand that there is no regulation or accountability to this blog. It is your responsibility to step back and find out for yourselves if the information I give is correct. Don’t believe me unless you check the facts.
When we lived in Houston, we attended Houston’s First Baptist Church. We became friends with the head pastor there Gregg Matte. We were listening to a sermon once when he said something that blew my mind.
“Guys (Congregation), just because I am standing up here with a microphone and a Bible doesn’t mean that you should just blindly believe what I am saying. It is your responsibility to check this information out for yourself! We want you to grow in your relationship with Christ.”
Did I just hear that from our pastor? Did he just say to listen to him and then check him out to make sure he is telling the truth? That is amazing! As I sat there it made so much sense to me. God wants us to check his book. Why would you blindly believe something that someone says just because he went to school to get the title of Pastor? It was brilliant. Of course we should check or else a bunch of people start doing really crazy things in the name of Christianity.
And You Are Trying To Figure Out Why We Don’t Tell You the Truth
As I was thinking about titles, I wanted to think of something that was subtle, but definitely gets the reader to think I am against this piece by Solomon. Some of the other ideas were, Writer’s Love Negative, Fine I’ll Tell You But You Aren’t Going to Like It, and This Writer Just Crushed Me. I almost pulled the trigger on the second example there, but I thought it was too blatant. So I decided on And You Are Trying To Figure Out Why We Don’t Tell You the Truth.
My thinking behind it was that I wasn’t identifying who I was saying this statement to. Was it to a writer, or a fan, or both? I hoped that writing it that way would catch as many people as possible. From the responses, it seemed like everyone thought I was talking to fans. The writers that responded seem to explain more the editing side of writing and didn’t really cover if they thought I was talking to them.
Do Not Trust Me Until You Check
There is nothing left for me to say.
Your refusal to step up and humble yourself, to be a leader that all of your teammates expect from you, is a disgrace.
Listen, you accidentally “kicked” a ball down the left field line. There is nothing wrong with that. Heck that happens. There wasn’t a single person on your team, the other team, or in that stadium that thought you did something wrong with that accidental “boot.” What every person in that stadium saw following the “boot” was unacceptable. You “dogged” it man. YOU “DOGGED” IT!
You could have been a man. You could have said, you made a “terrible decision and you’re embarrassed about it.” But you decided to take a different angle that exposed you as a selfish player who could care less about your teammates. You said,
“We got a lot of people dogging it after ground balls,” he said. “They don’t apologize.”
So you feel like the best route here is to throw your teammates under the bus and call them out?
THEY ARE FOLLOWING YOU! IF THEY DOG IT, IT IS BECAUSE THEY SEE YOU DOGGING IT! THAT IS CALLED A MIRROR!
Craig Biggio would lose his mind if he saw that. Biggio was the most consistent effort guy I have ever seen and because of that WE FOLLOWED HIS EXAMPLE. Do you see how this works? Your teammates are following you. If you went hard then there wouldn’t be people dogging it after ground balls.
But here is my real problem with you. You disrespected your manager for making the right decision. You said,
“That’s OK. He doesn’t understand that. He never played in the big leagues,” he said.
Let me tell you something Hanley. That is the most degrading comment a Big League player can say to a coach, manager, or any other person associated with the game. That is cruel! What does that have to do with anything? That is elitist and wrong!
YOU DON’T HAVE TO PLAY IN THE BIG LEAGUES TO KNOW WHAT IS RIGHT AND TO CARE ABOUT YOUR PLAYERS!
Listen, you are just a immature kid who needs to get his butt kicked. I played against a lot of your teammates and the don’t seem like a group to cross. If I were you I would go up to Wes Helms and ask him for help. And before you talk to the rest of your teammates, I would crawl into Fredi Gonzalez’s office, take your hat off that you wear “crooked”, and say,
“Fredi, I am so sorry for saying those comments about you. I lashed out when I was the one that messed up. You made the right choice in pulling me from that game. But I really want you to know that what I said about you “not playing in the big leagues” was really mean and I am sorry if I hurt you.”
You know what Fredi will say?
“Hanley this shows me a lot. I know it is hard to play this game and you have a lot of media pressure. But we need you. You are one of the best players in the game and our guys look to you. If you don’t try then they won’t try. As far as I’m concerned this issue is water under the bridge. Thank you for apologizing. You just took a huge step in becoming a leader.”
Now you crawl into that clubhouse and keep that “crooked hat” off your head and look each of your teammates in the eye and apologize. NO LOOKING DOWN, NO EXCUSES! JUST TAKE IT! If they lash out, then TAKE IT!
Now shut your mouth and never do that weak crap again. When the media comes up to you, you say that you apologized to Fredi and your teammates and say that you made a huge mistake and that you are sorry.
Now go out there and get 4 hits and win! This issue is closed!